Evan Mathis hasn't participated in an Eagles practice since the last week of the 2014 regular season. And while it would be reasonable for his teammates to be anxiously awaiting his return from his contract-related absence, at least two players don't appear to be concerned.
Speaking to reporters after practice Tuesday, left tackle Jason Peters said he's prepared for the possibility that Mathis, who has not attended OTAs this summer, won't be starting for the Eagles in 2015. From Jimmy Kempski of the Philly Voice:
When asked if Peters would miss Mathis, he didn't seem to mind at all if Mathis doesn't return.
"No, not really," said Peters. "I've been playing beside different guys every year, so it doesn't really matter who's beside me to get the chemistry with them, and then get ready for the season.
"We've got a group of guys out there putting in work who have been here since April. Right now Allen Barbre is the starter. Don't know if Evan shows up, he'll get his spot back, I don't know."
Peters wasn't the only one who shared his thoughts on the subject. When asked about Mathis' absence, the third-year tight end Zach Ertz recalled a quote from Jim Harbaugh, his college head coach: "out of sight, out of mind." From Geoff Mosher of CSN Philly:
"If you go against Chip, I’ve think we seen … if you don’t buy in, we’ve seen what happens," Ertz said. "Not to say that as a threat in any way, but we want guys that love the process each and every day, whether its June 1 or January 1 or February 6, whatever day the Super Bowl is.
"We need guys that are going to come in each and every day and work and I think that’s what we’re building right now."
There's a fair amount to unpack here. Peters' comments don't necessarily say he thinks the team wouldn't miss Mathis, or that they'd be better off without him. Instead, it sounds like Peters is looking at this from a next-man-up perspective.
Ertz, meanwhile, is echoing a similar refrain we've heard from the Eagles over the past three years: buy in and be in the building or you're gone. Judging from the comments made by Ertz, it wouldn't be surprising if ESPN's Adam Caplan was correct in his belief that Mathis won't be on the team this season.
With Mathis absent, neither Peters nor his teammates can sit around and mope about missing number 69 (even if this is all happening on June 9th, of all days). Someone has to fill in, and right now that person appears to be Barbre.
Speaking of Barbre, Peters' vote of confidence makes this the second time in as many days that Barbre's received a public vote of confidence. On Monday offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland sung Barbre's praises, calling him "underrated" and "a really good player". Barbre has been a large part of the offseason conversation about the 2015 offensive line, especially after the Eagles released longtime starter Todd Herremans in February.
Peters' comments about Mathis potentially having to win his job back in minicamps and training camp are somewhat surprising. While Mathis is a decorated Pro Bowl and All-Pro player, missing time and needing to earn his starting job back is in line with Chip Kelly's belief in open competition, even if said competition isn't actually very open.
Mathis has missed every day of the voluntary OTAs amid reports that he is looking for a raise. Kelly has been hesitant to talk about the situation, saying today that he'd take the situation "as it comes". While it's still early in the summer, it's fair to wonder about the fate of Mathis, and how it could impact his linemates – even a future Hall-of-Famer like Peters.